Rory McIlroy can do no wrong these day.
If he putts poorly, his ball-striking saves him. And even when he drives it poorly, as he did in the opening round of the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston last night, he cleans up with the blade.
A six under 65 was the result for the world No 1 at TPC Boston as he came back from an opening bogey with seven birdies, taking just 24 putts to finish the day two strokes behind Korea’s Seung-Yul Noh.
Noh hit a nine under 62 to lead by one from former Walker Cup winner Chris Kirk with Tiger Woods also hot with the putter as he shot a 64 that left him tied for third with Jeff Overton and Ryan Moore.
McIlroy is tied for sixth and despite hitting just four of 14 fairways, he managed to find 12 greens and make seven birdies.
As Padraig Harrington battled hard, holing a few six footers en route to a one under 70 and Graeme McDowell slipped to a 74 following a damaging triple bogey seven, McIlroy was delighted with his score.
Watched by girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki following her first round exit in the US Open last week, he plans to tighten things up off the tee and go out all guns blazing for a win that would put him in poll position to win the FedEx Cup when he returns for the Tour Championship in two weeks.
“I definitely didn’t drive the ball the way I wanted to,” McIlroy said. ” I want to try and hit more fairways the next few days because if I want to have a chance to win this thing, I’m going to have to put the ball in the fairway.
“I drove it great last week at Bethpage and didn’t putt so well, but this week it seems like I didn’t drive it so good today but putted well. If I just hit a few more fairways tomorrow, then hopefully that’ll be the key to another good round.”
“The only thing that I need to do tomorrow is hit more fairways, and if I hit more fairways and give myself chances, hopefully hit greens from there, hopefully give myself opportunities and chances for birdie. That’s all I want to do.”
As for the Wozniacki effect, he explained that the Dane is becoming more expert on the game of golf to the point where she is now giving his caddie stick.
“Obviously I’d still love her to be in New York playing, but it’s great to have her here,” he said. “It’s great to have her support. I think this is her fourth tournament of the season with me. It’s nice. It seems like every time she comes along, I play well, so it would be nice to get her here more often.
“She was even giving J.P. a little bit of grief. I airmailed the green at the first. We came off, and she went, ‘Nice club, J.P.
“Yeah, it’s good. But my knowledge is definitely picking up in tennis, and hers is picking up in golf.”
Harrington hit it well from tee to green but went out in one over with a bogey at the 12th and while he birdied the par-five second, he bogeyed the fourth when he took four to get down from just 73 feet.
One over with three to play, he finished strongly when he pitched to five feet from 50 yards at the seventh and holed the putt before knocking in a 21 footer at the last.
McDowell got off to a hot start with birdies at the first two holes before bogeys at the fifth and seventh.
But while he birdied the short eighth, he bogeyed the 10th and racked up a triple bogey seven at the 12th when he hit his 200 yard approach into trouble, pitched to 27 feet after a penalty drop and three putted.
Woods had six successive birdies from the 18th to the fifth but then bogeyed the ninth to post a seven under 64. He missed just two greens in what was the perfect reply to his Sunday 76 at the Barclays last week.
“I played really well today,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good shots, and on top of that I putted well at the same time. It was a nice little combination.”
It’s a combination that the Irish trio will be looking for today.